Tag Archives: youth

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Amkoullel – Sinin

Last night at the Picturehouse Central in London, the film They Will Have to Kill Us First screened for the first time to a European audience. The film charts the lives of different Malian musicians through the carnage of extremist Islamic militant takeover of the northern half of their country – banning music in the process. The film’s launch was – naturally – full of emotion, as people from all over the world came together to listen to the musicians stories of terror, loss and censorship in a stunning documentary. The film begins back in 2012 and plunges the viewer straight into violent and chaotic scenes. It is a chilling reminder of just how bad it got. The band Songhoy Blues’ struggle and rise to fame form the “backbone”(to quote director Johanna Schwartz) of the film. Young, bright and charasmatic, the band’s members are articulate and insightful about the conflict and its rolling implications. They are also staggeringly talented and their original music, along with fresh contributions from the likes of Vieux Farka Toure and rap-star Amkoullel, come together it a must-have film soundtrack which it was a relief to hear will be released on CD in its own right next year.

What really makes this film special is its longetivity. Relatively speaking, the documentary’s focus is quite narrow – a handful of Malian’s followed over a 3 year period. It allows for the viewer to get to know the characters and appreciate just how important music is to their identity and sense of well-being. Each character at some point during the film tells of how they are unable to sing, play or write their music due to dibilitating sadness. Music is the rallying point and with inspiration performances the artists breathe life into war-torn communities. The film therefore hammers-home the point that music is crucial to Mali’s peace and security and holds the key to unlocking it’s youth’s potential – a youth that is frighteningly close to being wasted. Worse still, Aliou – Songhoy Blues’ lead singer – warns that this disenfrancised youth, brought up in anarchic surroundings, are the next conflict waiting to happen.

Music engages people and as another character in the film explained it “teaches morality”. That’s why last night, at the Premier, the launch of the Music in Exile Fund was the most welcome news of the night. The Fund will “contribute towards Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship, a year-long programme to support those facing censorship.” The film’s magic just couldn’t be abated, and has spilled pleasingly into supporting a very worthy cause. Hopefully with this support, the Index on Censorship will be in an even greater position to support potential stars of the future in Mali and across the world. Please consider donating to the fund by following the links to the They Will Have to Kill Us First website.

The film will be showing on screens across the UK from next week. For tickets and upcoming screenings of They Will Have to Kill Us First click here.


Amkoullel – Sinin

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Mylmo – Propheciline 

“I thought I knew something about Malian music. Toumani Diabate, Rokia Traore, Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Vieux Farka Toure, Tinariwen. They’re the heroes, right? They’re the legends, the pop icons, the road blockers. I know there are rappers in Mali, just as I know there are rappers all over Africa. But I never knew that the rappers had taken over.” – Andy Morgan

Monday just passed (22nd of September 2014) was Mali’s Independence Day. It’s 54th to be precise, and the country was congratulated from all over the world on another year of self-rule and a day of national pride. Mali is perhaps one of the few countries in the world that would receive such messages of support from President’s of both the USA and Iran, the former highlighting the Malian government’s continued commitment to democratic rule and reconciliation, the latter using the day to emphasise its on-going goal of improving relations with the country and continent.

From a British perspective Malian independence means a whole lot for the residents of Hay-on-Wye in Powys, just on the Welsh-side of the border. Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Timbuktu and – accordingly – marks Malian independence with fundraising and celebrations. This year it took the form of a week-long multi-cultural affair with displays, cinema, food and music events all aimed at raising funds to help tackle some of it’s twin-town’s most pressing urban problems. In similar festival spirit seen during the Olympic games in London and the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, displays will line the windows of the town and later this week Mark Saade, Malian Consul, will judge the entries. Good luck, and good fun to everyone there.

Of course, the most important place on Mali Independence Day is Mali itself. This year passes with barely a hint of the optimism or relief from last year‘s celebrations – many people in Mali are now of the opinion that the government has failed to act, is not delivering on its promises and has slipped into the corruptive problems of the past. Regionally, the threat of Ebola looms large, bringing further bad news to an already challenging economic and agricultural recovery.  This does not mean that Malian’s are not down-trodden. Community action appears to be bubbling and Malian’s from many walks of life are motivated to step in, in their government’s absence, to make the changes they wish to see.

This week’s song of the week is for Mali’s youth. The passage at the top of the page is to remind us of all the love, support and admiration we provide for Malian’s and their country, at the end of the day, it is their country and we must celebrate the way they do. Andy Morgan declares that Malian rap music has “taken over” Mali’s music scene. Sequentially, this must mean they have also captured the most popular vehicle for political discourse in the country.

Mali’s rap may not be its most popular musical export to the Western world. However, if you want to know what’s going on in the hearts of everyday Malians – if you want to hear what its people are saying – then Mali’s rap music is definitely the place to begin listening.

Mylmo – Propheciline